Response to “First Step:LGBTQ+ and the Frum Community”

Several years ago, I was sitting with an adam gadol – an internationally-renowned rosh yeshiva and posek, who said that he had just privately spoken on the phone with a man who confided that he is attracted to males yet has fathered and raised a beautiful Torah-observant family with his wife of many years, as this man controlled his SSA urges and would never dare act upon them. This great rav broke down crying several times as he told me that the anonymous caller was such a tzaddik and a gibbor (hero), who painfully overcame his indescribably strong impulses his entire life in order to comply with Halacha.

Although, as Rav Aharon Feldman posited, it is not expected that every person with homosexual urges marry, and such people can live Torah-true lives as they serve Hashem with sincerity and contribute to Klal Yisroel in numerous ways, in none of these cases do the people under discussion consider themselves to be part of an “LGBTQ+ community”. In fact, these individuals, in their ever-challenging and saintly quest to remain loyal to the Torah, would never define themselves by their SSA impulses, much less seek to be designated as part of an SSA community, as it were, just like Orthodox Jews with other impulses that the Torah forbids acting upon, even if these impulses are in no way as strong as SSA, would never want to label themselves as part of a community which identifies with those acts. (And if it makes a difference, I personally know Orthodox Jews who struggle heroically and successfully to control their SSA urges, and who shun and are repulsed by the notion of their being part of an “LGBTQ+ community”.)

With this in mind, which I believe is the authentic Torah attitude, I was troubled to read Rabbi Yisrael Motzen’s article A First Step:LGBTQ+ and the Frum Community. Rabbi Motzen continually refers to Orthodox Jews who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and in effect downplays the objectionability to open identification with this community. While of course not endorsing the homosexual act, Rabbi Motzen waters down the stigma:

Is there any justifiable reason that many shuls do not hesitate before giving aliyos to people who are not Shomer Shabbos, but there is an uproar if a gay man is given the same honor? I cannot imagine Hashem loves such a person any less, and neither should we.

Rabbi David Rosenthal hit the nail on the head regarding this sorely inaccurate analogy:

The comparison between active members in the LGBT community to those that desecrate Shabbos is flawed. The author fails to make the distinction between behavior which is not according to Halacha and an ideology which is against the Torah. For example, if a group of Shabbos desecrators would proclaim that they proudly violate the Shabbos laws, belong to a chilul Shabbos society, and declare that they have no intent to change their behavior, would the author not reject them?

I must add that even if it is technically permissible according to Halacha to give an aliyah to a mechallel Shabbos b’farhesia – one who publicly and knowingly desecrates Shabbos, understanding exactly what he is doing – a shul that gives such a person an aliyah, absent a special kiruv situation or the like, should seriously reconsider its policy. A person who is mechallel Shabbos b’farhesia is deemed by Chazal to reject Hashem’s authority over the world and thereby commits a very conspicuous act of kefirah (heresy); for this individual to be publicly honored in Hashem’s house with reciting a blessing on the Torah, which he desecrates and essentially denies, is the height of hypocrisy and perhaps chutzpah. And this is where Rabbi Motzen’s comparison ironically has a tinge of legitimacy, as one who publicly identifies as part of a group that defines itself as maintaining a position that is extremely contrary to the Torah should likewise not be honored with the Torah.

With this in mind, Rabbi Motzen’s rhetorical remarks thus strike me as odd:

Is there any justifiable reason that many shuls do not hesitate before giving aliyos to people who are not Shomer Shabbos, but there is an uproar if a gay man is given the same honor? I cannot imagine Hashem loves such a person any less, and neither should we.

I must absolutely emphasize that a man who privately has SSA urges yet remains loyal to the Torah in public and in private (to our knowledge) should indeed be called up to the Torah. In contrast, Rabbi Motzen refers to people who openly identify with a movement that runs counter to Torah values.

Rabbi Motzen advocates for gay people to speak openly with their rabbonim about their struggles, and for rabbonim to have an open ear. This is not an issue of dispute; individuals with SSA impulses and self-identity questions should of course privately seek and receive guidance from their rabbonim and rebbeim, as should everyone else with personal struggles and challenges. But contrary to the message that readers of Rabbi Motzen’s article might receive, this is not something that shows a change in policy or is a “first step” for “LGBTQ+ and the frum community”.

Similarly, Rabbi Motzen’s call for being kind and compassionate is not new and does not represent a change in what should be communal conduct; but again, discussion of these issues must be on a private, discreet basis between individuals and their rabbonim/rebbeim (and rebbetzins, for women) – it is not something for public consumption.

We must be ever so careful not to give the impression (even unintentionally, as I believe is the case here) that we are committed to Halacha on a technical level yet do not fully embrace the Torah’s value system. In no uncertain terms does the Torah twice refer to the homosexual act as to’eivah (an abomination), and we publicly read this description on Shabbos and on Yom Kippur – not to mention Chazal’s words about homosexual relationships, as found in the midrashim about the generation of the Mabul (the Flood) and elsewhere. While those individuals about whom Rabbi Motzen writes assumedly do not act upon their SSA urges, any effort to craft a new position regarding public homosexual identity, especially as a community, is flawed and will lead to widespread deviation from the Torah and abrogation of its values.

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30 Responses

  1. Nachum says:

    It was bad enough that Cross-Currents even posted the previous piece, but if this is the response of Avraham Gordimer, of all people, then we’re really in trouble. No, at times our overriding concern should *not* be “sensitivity.” In a world gone mad, sometimes we need to be very, very, firm indeed, the chips falling where they may. Here’s what I posted to the other post, in case there are different approval standards:

    There seems to be a plague of Orthodox rabbis, even ostensibly charedi ones, who are either too compliant (if they’re more left-wing MO) or too unknowledgeable or too uninterested (if they’re more yeshivish) to do actual research, buying into every single gay Orthodoxy they’re fed. It was pretty obvious with Rabbi Goldberg accepting uncritically his sixty-year old straight member’s assertion that he’s a woman, and it’s pretty obvious with this author, with his repeated used of the “LGBTQ+” mantra*, his tossing out (or having fed to him) the Waldenberg trope, and the kicker at the end, where he thinks it’s just grand that normal adults be interested in finding out the “real meaning” behind such nonsense as “novosexual” and “abrosexual.”

    No. Absolutely not. The only response of normal people, Orthodox Jewish or not, even atheists, to that, especially that last, should definitely not be, “Oh, what a precocious young tortured lad to know such new things!” It should rather be, “Lady, your son is spending way too much time on the internet. Cut him off now, immediately and totally, before he starts demanding to be castrated.”

    *For the millionth time: “L” and “G” are two totally different things, not that either is at all acceptable. There are multiple forms of “T”, all of which are different forms of mental illness. “Q” is a meaningless term (as is every other letter added, as well as, of course, that “+”) that allows anyone to include themselves and, say, sue Yeshiva University even if they’re straight. And “B” presents no problem halakhically at all. “Attracted to both? Great. So like every other straight person, just ignore half.”

  2. Yisroel says:

    Well said Rabbi Gordimer, the Nachshon who stands up for the Torah’s eternity, who’s values can’t be compromised in the name of being woke.

    If I created my personal identity around being a kiddush club member and not ever being yotze krias hatorah, I’m sure Rabbi Motzen would agree that rejecting any detail of Torah law is heretical. So too, identifying oneself with an anti Torah movement removes oneself from the Torah community. We do not make the Torah community conform to modern norms, which are very not normal these days. Personal struggles deserve empathy and must remain private.

  3. Aryeh says:

    I’ve seen Reb Aharon Feldman’s letter quoted many times. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall ever seeing an article about this subject where Rabbi Feldman’s letter is not quoted. I don’t think most people know that Rabbi Feldman actually wrote an entire article about this subject for the Dialog magazine and someone has made it publicly available. I believe that what he writes in this article is very much in line with the beautiful words of Rabbi Gordimer. The article can be accessed here:

  4. Bob Miller says:

    If the Torah calls some action by a Jew a capital crime, shouldn’t we Orthodox Jews do our utmost to prevent such an action altogether, 100%?

  5. Jonah says:

    Dear Rabbi Gordimer,
    As someone with your so called “SSA attraction”, who grew up in a wholesome yeshivish family, who was married for 20 years and fathered many children, I respectfully call your assertions a sham that only benefits and reinforces the twisted beliefs of the people who want to hear it.
    Despite doing everything the right way for over 40 year, my homosexuality never waned, and more importantly, the need for same sex affection which is way more relevant than physical attraction never wavered.
    Staying in the closet made me miserable, distant from my wife and children and took away all the color from my life. I don’t think doing that is any act of gevurah. It is self destruction.
    My life and relationship with Hashem only developed in its true form once I accepted that Hashem made me a gay man and that’s how he intends me to be. Living an authentic and open life is the only heathy way forward and the path that eventually brought me ever closer to the people I love such as my children.
    While it might sound difficult to mesh this with Halacha, I am absolutely confident that more listening, understanding and compassion from the frum community would help greatly. It is time to change this speech of rejection and superiority.
    A proud frum gay mensch

    • David Ohsie says:

      @Jonah: Thank you for telling your story. More people need to hear it. Chag Sameach!

    • lacosta says:

      if living ‘an authentic and open life ‘ means coupling and sexual activity , it may be healthy but it sure ain’t halachic. and if it means coupling without sexual activity , well , you are a gibor greater than Yosef Hatzadik….

    • Raymond says:

      I both agree and disagree with you. I agree with you that since you are a homosexual, that to live a life as if you are heterosexual is just wrong, and does not work. It is not fair to your wife nor to you. On the other hand, I do not think that fully acting out one’s homosexuality is a good idea either, as it violates one of the key prohibitions of Torah law. Life sometimes demands compromises, and I think that in cases like yours, living a celibate life would be the optimal way of dealing with your issue. That may seem unfair, but other people for other reasons are also in situations where celibacy is the only viable solution.

      • David Ohsie says:

        @Raymond: The man is testifying about his experience, his own relationship to God and to his fellow man all of which are important to leading a frum life. Go the other 50% of the way and listen to his experience and leave the judging to God. Jonah didn’t ask your advice nor does he need a lecture about Halacha. He is a frum man and is well aware of the Halacha. [As a side point, I think that today, in American English, the word gay is preferred over homosexual.]

  6. David Ohsie says:

    Dear Rabbi Gordimer, you are explaining exactly why LGBTQ orthodox must form their own groups and networks of support like First off, you keep talking about homosexual urges and SSA impulses and avoiding recognition that there are Frum people who are also gay. Even R Feldman recognizes this [he uses the word homosexual]. Second, you insist that they must keep their sexuality private. In other words, they must stay in the closet. There is absolutely nothing wrong or sinful about being gay, but telling them that they must keep quiet about it give them an unequivocal message: be ashamed. It also give them no way to defend themselves against the ignorant Rabbis who they trust sending them to orgnanizations like JONAH/JIFGA where they are abused (the RCA once endorsed this). Contrary to what you say, it is very important for LGBTQ orthodox to let people know that they exist and to network together to find ways to fight the stigma placed upon them by orthodoxy and provide mutual information sharing and support. This is especially true if they have any hope of remaining part of the Orthodox community, a desire that many have, although many others perceive, probably correctly, that they are not really welcome and would be better served by going elsewhere where they can be treated properly in line with Torah values.

    • Raymond says:

      Just because calling homosexuals Gay is considered politically correct, does not make it wrong or forbidden to use the more accurate term of homosexual. And just as people have the inherent right to respond to my words, so do I have the inherent right to respond to those who live a life involving major questionable behavior.

      As for there being nothing wrong or sinful about engaging in male homosexual behavior, G-d Himself strongly disagrees with that, as clearly stated in the Torah. And yes, those who engage in such behavior should have a sense of shame just as much as anybody who transgresses one of the most serious Torah prohibitions. Also, it is not that homosexuals are not welcome as human beings in the Orthodox Jewish community. Rather, what is far more objectionable is how too many homosexuals feel the need to constantly advertise their morally deviant behavior to everyone around them.

      • David Ohsie says:

        You should reread what I wrote as your response is almost entirely unrelated:

        1) R Gordimer, unlike R Feldman, is not willing to say that some frum people are gay. R Feldman says unequivocally recognized his interlocutor as gay (he uses the word homosexual, but that is the same).

        2) Being gay is not a sin. Gay yeshiva high school kids are not sexually active. They are just gay.

        3) The same bachur is not advertising their morally deviant behavior. They are realizing that they are gay.

        You seem to be another person who is fixated on gay sex, but doesn’t care at all that their Rabbis sent frum boys to be sexually abused at JONAH in the name of so-called conversion therapy.

  7. Orthodoxy is not a popularity or PR contest says:

    Rabbis need to have the integrity and courage to say no, when that is the Torah position, and their baalei batim need to stand squarely behind them. As the great Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik z”l eloquently explained re a union forbidden to a kohein that he had to nix.

    The LGBTQSCAMZIDFRKOP people have a Temple to go to if they do not want to follow Orthodoxy. It is called CBST, Congregation Beth Simchat Toeivah, in NY.

  8. Steven Brizel says:

    R Gordimer deserves a Yasher Koach, and for being courageous to reject the Zeitgeist of our times and to remind us that acceptance should never lead to communal tolerance.

  9. Barry Kornblau says: Is the view of the membership of the Rabbinical Council of America regarding these matters.
    I am pleased to have been a principal author of the text. further fleshes out the RCA’s position, and adds additional reflections of my own.

  10. Ally says:

    “Several years ago, I was sitting with an adam gadol – an internationally-renowned rosh yeshiva and posek, who said that he had just privately spoken on the phone with a man who confided that he is attracted to males yet has fathered and raised a beautiful Torah-observant family with his wife of many years, as this man controlled his SSA urges and would never dare act upon them.”
    Did this “adam gadol’s” wife know he wasn’t sexually attracted to her, or that he was sexually attracted to men? Is this fair to his wife?

    • Someone says:


      Did you really read what R Gordimer wrote? Because your comment makes no sense if you did.

  11. Jessica says:

    I wonder if any gay frum Jews can explain to the hetero frum Jews what it is we can do to help in a practical way, since this seems to be a problem with no solution…
    Do you want halacha changed? (As far as we know, there is no way we can change it.)
    Do you want us to acknowledge that you are gay (how?)
    Should we pretend we think a married gay couple are just roommates who don’t violate halacha? (It is kind of hard to tell ourselves such a ridiculous lie. )
    I’m not clear on what community members are being asked to do aside from treating every person with respect and friendliness, which I personally do regardless of people’s religious level or social abilities.
    Is there something specific to be done?

    • David Ohsie says:

      I’m not gay, but here are a few things that can be done completely within the dalet amos of Halacha:

      1) Orthodox Rabbis in the US including RCA Rabbis used to send gay orthodox youth to conversion therapy at an orthodox organization called JONAH. It turned out that they organization was run by closeted gay men who were sexually abusing their clients. So the first thing would be an open apology to all those orthodox youth that they harmed by sending them to JONAH.

      2) There is a successor organization to JONAH called JIFGA. The second thing to do is to denounce that organization and prohibit any person from referring anyone to the organization.

      3) Since there is no evidence at all that conversion therapy works and given the harm caused by conversion therapy, Rabbis should denounce conversion therapy.

      4) Since being gay is not a sin and the number of sexually active youth in our Yeshivos and BY (etc) is exceedingly low, the LGBT youth in these schools should be addressed publicly and told that they have nothing to be ashamed of since they are not sinning and that it is OK to tell their parents or other trusted adults about themselves and even to share this knowledge publicly. They should be guided to resources with real expertise (not random rabbis or conversion therapists) who can guide them. The school should have education session explaining that LGBT youth are not a myth and they really exist in all schools and anti-gay and anti-trans slurs will not be tolerated.

      5) For the LGBT or others for whom heterosexual marriage is not going to work, they should not be pressured into trying such a path.

      6) Orthodox people should understand the the Talmud indicates that celibacy is not possible for most people. This is reflected in the injunction to marry at a young age to avoid sin. So Orthodox people should be tolerant of what they view as violations of Halacha by LGBT who would otherwise have to remain celibate. These people should not be referred to as perverted or hedonistic, but rather acting in a normal and predictable fashion, in the same way that it is normal and predictable that people will tell a certain amount of gossip, cause others a certain amount of emotional pain, not always respect their parents properly, not always concentrate during davening, etc.

      • Steven Brizel says:

        I agree with the reference to Lincoln’s famous quote School curricula and what was depicted at so called pride parades are the agenda of the LGBT movement

      • Raymond says:

        You are distorting my actual words. For one thing, there is absolutely nothing wrong with calling a homosexual a homosexual, even if the Radical Left insists otherwise. The Radical Left want absolute power over our culture, but at least as of this moment, America is not North Korea.

        Secondly, my focus actually is on male homosexual behavior, not how one is born. If you read my actual words, you will see that it is the behavior that I condemn, not one’s inherent proclivities.

        Third, too male homosexuals do advertise their deviant behavior, wanting the whole world to know about their perversions. I live in a small city where they have gay parades several times to a year to celebrate their open contempt for traditional family life.

        And finally, the only time I get fixated on all this is when advocates of the male homosexual lifestyle are in my face about it. If they would leave me and society alone about it, they would never hear a word of protest from me.

  12. You can't fool all of the people all of the time says:

    אוי, מה היה לנו

    So many have fallen to the deceptive propaganda of the toeivah group of sinners.

    B”H there are still perceptive people out there, like Nachum, Yisroel, Bob Miller, and others have not fallen for the LGBTQXYZSCAMFEH. Reading their comments gives me hope. Not all Jews are so naive after all.

    ישר כחכם!

    As the saying goes, you may fool some of the people some of the time, but you won’t fool all of the people all of the time.

  13. Jessica says:

    David…gay teens should be told they are loved and they are not sinners because of their SSA that others have too AND that the Talmud says it’s unrealistic for most people to be celibate?

    • David Ohsie says:

      First things first. You asked what specific things can be done. Do you agree that some or all can be done? None of them are being done.

      Yes, gay teens should be told they are loved, not sinners and they are not the only ones. All of that is 100% true and not of it violates any Halacha.

      With #6, I said that orthodox should realize that celibacy is impossible for most people so they should be tolerant of what they view as a violation of Halacha. If you were in their shoes, you’d probably violate too, just as you violate lashon Hara, etc.

      • lacosta says:

        isn’t this the crux of the issue. we all dance around the point that there are limited choices– 1] remain fully halachic ie no gay sex ; 2] remain halachic except for the small exception of being coupled with an active gay sex life ; 3] leave orthodoxy in order to be coupled with an active gay sex life.
        the crux of the issue is ,then , which i previously asked, is whether the O gay community is asking the Torah world to sanction option 2] ; and whether anyone in their right mind expects that any conventional O authorities/rabbis would sanction such [ granted that OO ,extreme LWMO , psuedoO would , do , and probably flag carry for that ]…..

      • David Ohsie says:

        @Lacosta: It may someday be the issue, but right now we are still arguing about whether a frum non-sexually active high school kid is to be shamed for saying “I’m gay” and whether to send him to conversion therapy. I listed 6 things that are prior to the sanction option. And even when we fix everything else the sanction option is too stark, because there is the acceptance option: there are gay people and they are not going to be celibate. Let them be frum if they want. The alternative (which is what is done today) is to say: leave, we don’t want anyone who says they are gay.

  14. Jessica says:

    Also…I don’t argue with the statement that Jonah and other organizations or therapists involved in conversion therapy were bad/abusive, but I know individuals who went for therapy to overcome their SSA. Sometimes they WERE able to repress or channel them (and sometimes not, of course), but those people who went on to identify as straight and raise frum families really don’t go public about how they were helped by therapy…so it’s not fair to say conversion therapy never works. We don’t know.

    • David Ohsie says:

      Again, let’s avoid the distractions. JONAH never shut down. It was renamed to JIFGA. So Rabbis need to apologize and also stop sending people to JIFGA or other conversion therapies because they have no idea what they are doing. Even if I were to grant that conversion therapy could theoretically work and not be abusive (there is not evidence of this), practically, that is not what is happening and so the first thing to be done is apologize and do no harm.

      In fact, conversion therapy has been studied and there is not evidence of benefit. In addition, implying that gay people have something wrong with them that needs to be fixed with no evidence of such is itself abusive. But that is all theoretical because in fact the Rabbis have been sending gay kids to be sexually abused and the first thing is to stop that. Do you agree?

      • Raymond says:

        But there IS something wrong that needs to be fixed if one is a homosexual, for no matter how much homosexual behavior one engages in, one will never create life from it. At the same time, I do think that attempting to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals is a waste of time and energy. Sometimes life involves compromises, and in this case, that means that those born homosexual should live celibate lives. That may seem unfair, but they are not the only ones who are not in a position to have normal, heterosexual sex between one man and one woman.

  15. M says:

    Something to consider to r Gordumer and Rosenthal, frum he’s who leave do self identify as “chilul shabbos jews”. People who grow up frum and leave, really do sit their family down, declare themselves as non frum and move to a chill shabbos community. The tell their family they are never going to keep shabbos and hope their family can still accept them. I think you should reconsider if the analogy is truly inaccurate.

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